Sep 182015
 
Winlaton House

Winlaton House, I totally want to Rustoleum that fence!

SO much has been happening so fast!  We set em up, knock em down, and then run to fetch the ones that got away.

The Good

We found a house to rent!  Much much thanks to Florian for boarding the bus day after day and vetting properties for us.  It was a harder process than we expected, but I am looking forward to our new home, and that is saying something!

Our new home is a semi-detached house (only one shared wall) in a community called Lewisham (Lewis-ham?  Lewish-um?), which is just to the north of Bromley- about a 10 minute bus ride to David’s new work, close to shopping, close to schools (depending on which one we get into), and with all the normal low-crime, decent infastructure sorts of things one looks for in a neighborhood.  Knock wood.  The house itself has three bedrooms, 1 bath and two “reception rooms”, which are basically designed to be a Living Room and Dining Room, but which are currently being used as bedrooms in a house-sharing arrangement.  We don’t yet have the dimensions on those, so we aren’t yet entirely sure how we will use the space.  But, it looks like it will give us options, which is good.  Especially because the third bedroom is quite small- not Harry Potter’s Closet small, but “Room for bed and a dresser and not much else” small.  This, we have discovered, is quite typical for the area.   The house also has a large (for London) yard (they call it a garden) with grass and a patio and a shed.  And they will definitely allow us to have pets!  YAY!  As we got further into the vetting process, we realized how important that was to us.  We *really* want to have a dog!    So, here are a few pictures from the place:

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Bathroom, not a bad green

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Yard is meant to be cleaned up a bit before we arrive.  The kids will need to learn how to mow!

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Master Bedroom, with a wee closet

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Pretty sure this is the entry hall

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Second bedroom- the third one is very small

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Kitchen. We are told there is a fridge. Note the washing machine on the left. Also, anyone know what the white thing over the counter on the left might be?

Other good things: we managed to jump through all the hoops of distance-renting a house from a different country.  Glitches included things like: our bank account doesn’t use the “sort code” expected by British banking, our German landlord thought the inquiry the agent sent him was English Spam and deleted it, all 21 pages of the signed and initialed contract needed to be scanned and emailed back.  Took me an hour, but we have, in fact, leased this house!

Also good: Many check-marks showing up in many boxes. We are finishing up all our medical Stuff.  DD just got her braces off, DH almost has his full replacement tooth done, I have all my medical records (actually a small number of crucial ones) and am scheduled for a few tests before I go, just to make sure I am clear while insurance gets set up.  Hogwarts is cooperating in trying to help DD get set up for college applications before we leave.  DS is having a lot of social time with his friends.

The Problematic

Now we are facing a slew of problems that managed all to hit at once, as such things are wont to do.  First and foremost is the saga of the car.  As I mentioned before, we found out that we will not be allowed to take our car with us to England because it is prohibited in our auto-financing agreement. After 40 minutes of being swapped back and forth among different departments of VW financing (neither Leasing nor Loans wanted to claim us), David was finally told just to go in to our dealership and discuss the hand-off there.

When he arrived, the dealer told him that, yes, we could return the car 5 months early, but then we would be responsible for the depreciated value of the car.  David had already looked up blue book values and realized that the car is now worth roughly $7,000 less than our loan was for.  In short, the dealer wanted us to eat this depreciation.  David, much to their surprise, simply said “No”.  He pointed out that as we currently had possession of the car and were about to move to another country, our negotiating position was not really weak.  I had to giggle.  I definitely would have been looking for another solution, but just staring down a sales-guy with a flinty “No” is not my typical skill-set.  More the power to the Husband!

“What,” DH mused, “would happen if we took the car, that we were currently ready to surrender without fuss, to the UK?  You could repossess it, sure- but what would we care?  We are ready to turn it in now.  What would happen, if, instead, we just left the car here for 5 months before returning it?  In neither scenario do we pay $7,000 for depreciation, do we?”

The dealer blanched and offered to find a better solution.  [Note, we don’t actually want to play shenanigans.  Not our style, at all!  On the other hand, though, we aren’t prepared to pay $7,000 for the privilege of returning a car 5 months early.  The one big benefit of leasing is that you *don’t* have to absorb the market depreciation of a vehicle beyond your payments, since, well,  you don’t actually own it.]  Currently, the proposal is that we will bring the car in on Monday and they will evaluate the damage–we will be liable to pay for that (as we had already agreed) and then they will file new paperwork for us to return the car in October instead of March.  All of which, seems reasonable… but we will see.

Complicating that mess further was what happened yesterday.  As I was waiting to pick the kids up at school, parked in the Pick Up lane, the woman in the car in front of me acquired her daughter (a girl in DD’s class, as it happens), started her car and backed up 1/2 a car’s length right into my bumper!  “I didn’t even look!” she said.   Yeah… I had a suspicion.  Talk about your awkward introductions.  She gave me her information and I reported it to our insurance.  There isn’t a lot of damage, but our license plate would serve as a pretty good gutter, now…. concave, it is.  The German dealership is pretty picayune about the damage they note on their forms (is that scratched paint over the wheel well?  Here, use my magnifying glass!), so we know we will need to deal with this.  It just got tossed onto the pile.

Let us just say that was the capper on a pretty rotten day, yesterday.

The other currently problematic issue: Movers.  We used a website that allowed movers to bid for your move.  After receiving bids, we selected one.  Before hiring them, we double-checked out inventory list, and I realized that with the Washing machine in the kitchen of the new house, we would not need to bring the washer/dryer.  I went to the list and removed those two items.  Satisfied, we clicked the appropriate buttons, made the appropriate payment, and hired our movers.  But, when the paperwork arrived, David realized that there was something wrong.  ALL of our 50 boxes and some-odd bags were missing from the list.  Poof.  They had vanished when I made the change, apparently.  So, now we had hired a  company to only move 1/2 of what needed taking!  Crap.  Luckily, David’s take is that these guys are not trying to be jerks about it.  Unfortunately, they had only scheduled a small truck for our move and think they need a larger one or two trucks now….  That probably means more money, and scheduling headaches.  They are supposed to call us back Saturday with proposed solutions…. If it is too spendy, of course, we just have to eat our deposit loss and hire someone else.  But, UGH.  So, stay tuned.

The Unfinished:

Everything else.  We just got disturbing news from our HR team at the new company: they are complete newbs and have NEVER done a UK Visa before!  Oh gawd.  Ours is a little complicated, too, because we have to be filed under priority work designations, etc.  Not an emergency now… knock wood…. but we have fears that future headaches may be to come.

I wrote to the closest school on our list to see what steps we need to get DS enrolled.  They referred me to the equivalent of the District Office.  This office only had email forms that indicate they will “get back to you within 10 business days”…. it has been 3… we shall see!

Once we have the movers tacked down, we can arrange for getting our plane tickets, rental car and hotel booking.

The apartment is slowly getting organized, packed, cleaned, etc.  We have almost a month to finish that, so no pressure yet.

SO there you have it.  A snapshot of our current efforts.  Hopefully by next week some of these trickier things will be resolved and we can get down to the job of organizing, packing, dumping and selling our Stuff.

T- 24 and counting!!!

Did I mention Bromley has a Krispy Kreme?  It is seeping into my daydreams now….

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Sep 042015
 

https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRU8RMrtFr-EkOihJzGJSQOUFYdb10Ufe7PPLc0btG1yac19d7SzAWell, many of you have already read about us making an international move.  So, if I am going to make this interesting, I guess I had better focus on the differences…. and, of course, the wildly amusing English Names. For instance, Bromley has, in no particular order: Jackass Ln., Hobblingwell Wood Recreation Park, Dursley Road, Beaverwood School for Girls, Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital School, Tootswood Rd., Cofton Infant School, Well Hall Pleasaunce, Haberdashers’ Aske’s Knights Academy, Jail Lane on Biggens Hill, and Moremead Rd….  I have a feeling I may be sharing more of these as we go along :)

Differences

As for the differences… of course, we are still in Germany, but we are getting a bit of the flavor now.  If I thought this move would be easier, well- so far I would be wrong. It is definitely different. Easier?  Hmm… time will tell.  Last time, oddly enough, it was all about simplifying.  We threw out 1/3 of our household.  We sold or donated another third.  The final third was divided in two parts- one went into storage, the other came with us.  We started “fresh” and have learned to live a very different lifestyle than we did in the US.

This time we start with far less *stuff*.  But, far more complications.  As I indicated last post, every single issue has questions inside conundrums.  In trying to work our way through them, frankly, we are missing a bit of the German Straightforwardness.  In Germany, if someone says something, they usually mean it.  If they say they will call at a particular time or show up, they will.  If they say Yes, it is Yes, No means No.  Sneering isn’t frequently encountered here.  In asking about pets, David has already encountered several sneering Rental Agents.  One lectured him on how if he didn’t want 1 of the 3 bedrooms in a house to be *tiny* he should obviously be looking for a 4 bedroom Victorian.   I found her horrendously rude and off-putting.  David just said “Thank you” and hung up.  Not everyone is like that, of course.  Many of the people we have dealt with have been lovely and gone out of their way to be helpful.  And, like anywhere else, we will learn the ropes as we go.  But, there are definitely differences in national character, and we are just starting to learn about England.

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Merkel’s Hands

[Speaking of national characteristics, I had an experience the other day that proved to me that I have learned the best of what Germany has to teach me.  Middle-aged German Women seem to largely rule the country- and I don’t just mean Merkel.  In town, they are the ones who make things move smoothly, get in people’s business, and, to be honest, have rather a reputation for being more than a little pushy.  The other day we were in line buying school supplies.  The woman in front of us had two young girls and the checker was taking her time.  We waited.  After a couple minutes a Pushy Middle-Aged German Lady (PMAGL) came up behind me.  A new cashier came and opened his register.  PMAGL tried mightily to push past me and go to the newly opened place.  I shoulder checked her, smiled broadly at the new cashier and called out brightly “Guten Tag!” as I walked up the the counter.  The cashier grinned back and me and had to stifle a chuckle as the PMAGL let out a huge HARUMPH and continued to wait.  *I* Out-PMAGL’d a PMAGL!]

The houses themselves are also a bit different.

Most houses are what we could call “townhouses”, but they call them “terraced“.  All the homes are lined up sharing walls.  There is usually a long narrow yard out back.  Bedrooms are upstairs, kitchen and “reception room” (living room) downstairs.  Washing Machines are in the kitchen and may or may not have a dry setting.  It doesn’t look like Dishwashers are common.  Yards are called “gardens” whether or not there are plants.  Kitchen Appliances are called “white goods“. We have encountered places advertising “no chain” and “electric shower“.  Your guess is as good as mine! *Fees* associated with renting are rather insane.  Not just first, last and deposit, but credit check fees, holding fees, guarantor fees, Inventory Fees, Registration and Administration fees.  Apparently since DD is now over 18 we will have to pay for a credit check on her, too.  We have about 1000 pounds budgeted just for the fees, though we hope not to use it all.

In any case…

Let’s do a ‘Day in the Life’

to illustrate well, what a day in our life is like this week!

Our Goal was to get our amazingly helpful friend Florian set up to see 3 houses that would allow small dogs with a deposit.  We have been promising ourselves ever since we moved to Germany that whatever our next living space was, we would definitely get a dog.  It has been almost 5 years since Brigit passed.  We really miss having canine life in our family.  Also on our list of Day’s Activities: David and I had to work, I was scheduled to do lunch with Elena, and the kids had school.  GO!

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This is, apparently, a thing

4:00 PM Thursday After a week of ‘Maybes‘ and ‘Nos‘ and ‘Probably Nots‘ and unfulfilled ‘I will get back to yous‘, David has spoken with the agent for a townhouse which WILL accept pets!  Yay!  Unfortunately, the whole conversation was weird and awkward and the townhouse itself looks…. odd.  There are walls that appear to be decorated in faux leather and there is a room with a bright blue wall with a decal of clouds and an attack helicopter on it.  The bedspread on the king-sized bed says Las Vegas.  We assume we will not be forced to sleep in that bed, but still…. We put this one on the back burner.

5:00 PM PROP01 has called back to confirm landlords will accept a small dog!  Yay!

6:00 PM David has received an email from our HR contact at the new company.  He wants to know what our immigration status is.  Wait.  Isn’t that what he is supposed to be telling us?  David writes back to ask.  No reply.  We both hope very much that this is not going to become a big thing.

11:00 PM  Elena is sick but would still be willing to do tea.

6:30 AM Friday David and the kids get up, get ready for school, and go.

8:45 AM David returns from France, I get up and get my day started.

9:30 AM Take David to Work.

10:00 AM Ok, now *I* am feeling sickish.  Raincheck for lunch/tea.  Headcold?  Exhaustion?  Unclear.  Zinc and Rest.  Laugh, who am I kidding.  Rest… snort.  I amuse myself.  ONWARD.

10:30 AM First contact of the day from a rental agent.  Dog approval for PROP02.  Add that to PROP01 and we have 2/3 of our list for Florian!

10:45 AM PROP03 calls back to say No Dog afterall. Boo.   BUT, he has another property that might work. Yay! No photos yet.  Slightly more expensive, but close to work and sounds really nice.  PROP04 goes on the list.  We have 3!

11:30 AM  David receives a call from our auto financing.  Although, as far as England is concerned, it is perfectly legal for us to drive our car there, our auto loan will not let us house the car out of the country.  http://i0.wp.com/www.arborbrewing.com/assets/Winter-Is-Coming-GRUNGE-Website-e1383598697881.png?resize=193%2C149We need to either turn the car in, or refinance somehow.  Crap.  Crap. Crap.  This is complicated by the facts that the car is not worth the payout amount AND it has minor body damage- the result of being driven and parked far too often in France.  We may have to pay to have the damage fixed when we turn it in.  We fear the cost.  However, not having a car loan to pay each month has an appeal.  On the other hand, none of the places that we are considering are super-close to grocery stores or bus stops.  Shopping could be a pain without a car.  And, Winter is coming…. On the other hand…. yeah.  This is gonna take some time to work through.

12:19 PM Florian checks in and we give him the three properties to contact so he can set up appointments.

12:30 PM  Call from DS.  His only afternoon class has been cancelled.  Can I come get him 4.5 hours early, as soon as lunch is over?  Umm… yeah.  OK.

1:00 PM  1 hour bonus round trip to France.  Realize that maybe we can get USAA to refinance our car loan! They are used to military families who have to function overseas. Thinking while Driving!  Woot!

2:00 PM Florian is still waiting for 2 of the agents to “call him back in 5 minutes”.  This would not happen in Germany.

2:15 PM I call USAA, unlock my account (oops forgot my Security word), and ask about possible auto loans.  I get disconnected on the way to the loan folks.

2:30 PM Discover through online widgets that USAA cannot provide international car loans.  In fact… almost no one will.  Why is this such a problematic thing?  “International Laws” are cited.

3:10 PM  PROP01 just called Florian back and now says No Pets.  WTF?  Wait, the guy David talked with is not in the office.  Maybe his office mate just didn’t know he got pet clearance.  New guy will call landlord and then will call Florian back.

3:20 PM Discover local friend is in need of medical care.  Start trying to help him track down local doctors who have not already left for the week.  We are unsuccessful.  Urgent Care it is.

3:35 PM After a few more attempted interactions with rental agencies David and Florian decide that 1) THERE ARE WAY WAY TOO MANY OF THESE IN THE AREA and 2) As Florian so dryly put it “its like a flock of ostriches … throw a ball in the middle and see them look around funny” We all agree that we are beginning to understand English humor a bit more.

4:00 PM Finally, Florian has received confirmations from Prop01 and Prop02 of the properties for tomorrow- Prop04 is trying to schedule for during the week.  Ok, this is progress!  Knock wood.

4:30 PM Back to France, Pick up DD.

5:30 PM Home.

6:00 PM Pick up David.

6:15 PM  Home, and WEEKEND.  Which means “catch up on work projects and pack and do chores”.  But, still, WEEKEND!

You may have noticed that was more than 24 hours.  That is because, frankly, we need more than 24 hours to get everything done.  This one isn’t a marathon, knock wood.  It is a mid-distance flat-out sprint!